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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 17:54 GMT
Britain's space strategy revealed
Brits in space
Britain will continue to focus its space efforts on benefits to the economy for the immediate future.

Satellites for television and navigation are at the heart of its plans for the next three years.

Science minister Lord Sainsbury unveiled the government's draft strategy at a news conference in London.

The question is whether the strategy is so sensible that it will fail to ignite any new public enthusiasm for space research

James Wilsdon, Demos
"It is the uses of space that are becoming increasingly economically important," he told reporters.

"This is all about how we use space now on the ground. Space produces substantial benefits to society," he added.

He cited television, telecommunications, personal navigation and detailed monitoring of the environment among a host of key areas.

No go

The strategy will come as no surprise to analysts.

Sellers, AFP
Piers Sellers has the right stuff; has Britain got the wrong policy?
As in previous years, it is based on support for the space industry; enhancing research in astronomy, planetary and Earth sciences; and delivering technology that may improve quality of life.

The UK will carry on its collaboration with the European Space Agency on missions such as Beagle 2 and the delayed Rosetta comet probe.

It still has no intention of committing resources to the International Space Station (except selected experiments) and especially not to manned spaceflight - something which has attracted criticism.

Too sensible?

When the British-born astronaut Piers Sellers flew on the ISS last year, his exploits generated huge excitement in his native country.

Likewise, UK-born Michael Foale will attract major media attention later this year when he takes command of the orbiting outpost.

But both men are only able to go into space because they have taken out US citizenship - they fly as Americans.

The think-tank Demos has called on the Government to support projects that will capture the public imagination, such as funding truly British astronauts.

Post-Sputnik generation

"The British National Space Centre (BNSC) has identified three sensible areas for the British space programme to concentrate on," said James Wilsdon of Demos.

"The question is whether the strategy is so sensible that it will fail to ignite any new public enthusiasm for space research.

"The British space programme needs to explain to a sceptical post-Sputnik generation how space science can produce real long-term benefits for us on Earth."

The government could choose to put British citizens through the official European astronaut training programme. It has consistently refused to do so.

See also:

19 Dec 02 | Science/Nature
26 Dec 02 | Science/Nature
13 Nov 98 | Science/Nature
08 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
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